Scotchgard Paint Protection Film - Invisible Shield
November 01, 2010
By Johnny Hunkins
Scotchgard Paint Protection...
Scotchgard Paint Protection Film (PPF) is often referred to by its generic name-"clear bra." Unlike window tint or vinyl graphics, PPF requires training to install properly. Ryan Tounsley of California C.A.R.S.-the PPF installer for our 2006 Corvette-is a 3M-certified trainer for PPF installers, as well as being the operator of C.A.R.S.
It doesn't matter whether you've got a brand new car or a restored classic, you always know when the honeymoon is over. Your pride and joy gets its first rock chip, then another, and before you know it there's a dozen. The bloom has come off the rose. But it doesn't have to end that way. If you're like me, you like driving your muscle machine, and that means facing the elements head on. Over the years, I've had lots of killer street machines that I used as daily transportation. I drove 'em often, and I drove 'em hard. By the time I was ready to trade, the front ends looked like they had been sand blasted. Tired of taking it on the chin (and in the wallet!) year after year, I decided to do something about it when I bought my latest daily driver-a well kept, low-mileage 2006 Corvette.
The solution is 3M Scotchgard Paint Protection Film (PPF) from 3M-a durable, high-grade, colorless urethane film applied to high-impact areas. This product has been around since the early '90s, and over the years 3M has kept refining it with increased burst strength and better UV protection. 3M's current automotive PPF-which is in its third generation-won't yellow with time (like other films) and can last decades if taken care of. The cool thing is that once covered with PPF, you've effectively preserved your paint in that condition until you remove the film. I drive my cars to very high mileage before selling, and this Corvette will be no different. What will be different is that the frontend of this 'vette will look as good in 150,000 miles as it does today.
If you've got a classic muscle machine or hot rod with a high-dollar paint job, 3M Scotchgard PPF can also protect those expensive paint jobs. If you cruise a lot, do any autocrossing or road racing, or just drive the snot out of it in heavy traffic like me, 3M's PPF can save you from spending thousands more in repaints, or losing a ton of value when you sell your classic.
Scotchgard PPF comes in 12-,...
Scotchgard PPF comes in 12-, 18-, 24-, 30-, 36-, 48-, and soon, 60-inch-wide rolls. Most applications, including our '06 Corvette, use the 8 mil (8 thousandths thick) product, but 3M makes it in 14 mil thickness for higher-impact areas.
If there's a down side, installing PPF isn't the easiest operation. The closest thing I can compare it to is installing window tint or vinyl graphics, only it's a lot tougher. Nevertheless, those competencies count for something, and if you're willing to give it a shot, you can get product for a DIY home installation. There are templates for over 15,000 vehicles-most of them late-model vehicles, and custom installations for classic cars are done all the time (more on that later). When it came time to do the 'vette, I called Ryan Tounsley at California C.A.R.S. They do installations at new car dealerships in Southern California and Phoenix, AZ, and they also have their own facility. We've got to give a big thanks to Walters Porsche & Audi in Riverside, CA where our install was done. Tounsley's company does all the installations for the Walters' dealership chain.
The cost for installing 3M PPF varies, and depends on the difficulty level of the car and the amount of material being applied. On a scale of 1 to 5, the C6 Corvette gets a "5," which is the most technically challenging due to the multitude of compound curves. Dark cars are also harder than light colored cars because repositioning the product during installation can leave it looking a little rough. "Mistakes can be fixed easier with lighter cars," says Tounsley. Dark colors, according to Tounsley, are not a problem for an experienced installer, and the $750 he gets for doing a C6 Corvette is the same regardless of the color.
The PPF job on the C6 Corvette includes panels to cover the front bumper, lower valence, the front half of the hood, the front half of both fenders, and the leading edges of the mirrors. For an extra $150 we also got the headlights and fog lights covered. If you're tight on cash, Tounsley recommends the bumper/valence treatment, called a "half-kit." This provides about 75 percent of the protection of the complete kit, and costs about $350. Tounsley also has experience covering muscle cars, classics, and hot rods. The most valuable classic he's treated with 3M PPF? The original Shelby Cobra Daytona that won Lemans in 1964-a car that recently sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction for $8 million. The new owner purportedly enjoys driving it, and 3M PPF makes that possible.
The bottom line here is that 3M Paint Protection Film offers incredibly robust long-term protection against sand, dirt, and other light projectiles, all while being practically invisible with no significant degradation over time. There's also value in retaining your original factory paint over a good repaint-discriminating buyers always prefer unmolested original paint, especially on high-end performers like Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs, Vipers, and Challengers, and that means extra money in your pocket.
This demonstration shows the...
This demonstration shows the resilience and strength of Scotchgard PPF. Just think what it can do for your car's finish over the course of many years and a hundred thousand miles.
Installing Paint Protection...
Installing Paint Protection Film doesn't require sophisticated tools. A mixture of baby shampoo and water are used as a barrier to help position the film and allow the squeegee to glide easily, a selection of squeegees flatten the product on the surface while forcing out air bubbles, a mix of isopropyl alcohol washes out the soap solution and allows the adhesive to bond where needed, and a precision Olfa knife is used to trim the PPF from unwanted areas.
There are PPF patterns for...
There are PPF patterns for over 15,000 cars-so the chances are good your car's template is already available. Here, California C.A.R.S. technician Sal Flores cuts the pattern for our 2006 Corvette on a plotting machine.
Ryan Tounsley lays the left...
Ryan Tounsley lays the left front fender PPF pattern on the Corvette after spraying it down with a mixture of baby shampoo and water. This is the beginning of an iterative process in which the film is repeatedly positioned, sprayed, squeegeed, peeled, resprayed, squeegeed again, and trimmed. Tounsley was imperturbable through the entire process.
Here Tounsley runs the squeegee...
Here Tounsley runs the squeegee over the hood panel, forcing air and water bubbles from under the film. "Once you squeegee the film, you only have a few minutes to work with it. The 3M adhesive is very aggressive," says Tounsley.
With this many compound curves,...
With this many compound curves, Tounsley used a lot of spray to try to manage the short set time of the adhesive while he was positioning the film. This is a technique that Tounsley teaches to all new Scotchgard PPF-certified installers.
Trimming the film with an...
Trimming the film with an Olfa knife is an art in itself. Cut too deep and you cut into the paint. That's a problem because when the film is removed years down the road, you've created a break in the paint that allows the paint to peel up with the PPF. Cut the film too shallow, and the film will tear. Little more than the weight of the knife is required to cut the film.
The mirrors are a good place...
The mirrors are a good place to show how resilient and flexible the Scotchgard PPF is, and why it needs to be. Here Tounsley forms the PPF over the mirror repeatedly to give it the right shape. In the process, he peeled the PPF, resprayed it, and squeegeed it several times.
We spent hours restoring the...
We spent hours restoring the headlight lenses on an old Mustang, and that experience was enough to convince us it was a good idea to have the sealed headlight capsules on the Corvette covered. If we had to replace the lenses after being sand blasted for 150,000 miles, they would cost $1,400 a piece. For $150, we can keep them like new indefinitely using 3M Scotchgard PPF.
When installed properly by...
When installed properly by an experienced 3M Scotchgard installer, you can't even tell that 3M PPF is protecting your ride! Protection on this vehicle goes halfway up the hood, down to the base of the spoiler, and half way down the fender, terminating at the peak of the wheel arch. The mask is cut out around the badge on the nose.